Pac 12 Basketball Tournament - Semifinals - Arizona v UCLA

One of the most intriguing parts of the NCAA Tournament is watching how NBA prospects alter their draft stock – both good and bad – in games that are magnified like no games they’ve played before. One of the players to watch in this year’s tourney is UCLA swingman Shabazz Muhammad, who is currently expected to be selected in the 5-8 range come June.

However, after some odd news emerging out of a Los Angeles Times report on Friday morning, Muhammad may have more questions to answer this March than just ones about basketball.

The article mainly revolves around how Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, “mapped out” his son’s future and pegged him as a future NBA star before anyone else could have imagined it. But what if Holmes also altered records and consequently altered history to help his son get there? According to the report, while UCLA’s media guide and all online biographies/information have Muhammad being born on November 19, 1993 in Los Angeles, the freshman’s birth certificate has his birthday as November 19, 1992 in Long Beach.

The report goes on: “Asked about the discrepancy, Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. ‘It must be a mistake,’ he said. Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.

We obviously don’t know all of the facts yet and it’s very possible that Muhammad was never aware of his actual birthday. While that seems unrealistic, think about it, do you remember anything from your first year or two of life? Of course not, and if you suddenly found out that you were actually a year older or younger than you always believed, I don’t think anyone could hold it against you. All of this is simply to say that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions yet or jump at the chance to hammer Muhammad on a personal level.

On a basketball level, however, well that’s a different story.

Ford goes on to point out that Muhammad wouldn’t be the only 20-year-old freshman (UNLV’s Canadian big man Anthony Bennett is another), but he’s also a couple of years older than some other freshmen and is the same age as Indiana junior Victor Oladipo, who has been much better than Muhammad this season.

As Ford tweeted, if Muhammad was born in 1992 instead of 1993, that means his impressive years of dominance in high school were a bit of a sham since as most are aware, even a year of difference in age during youth competition can be a huge factor in performance.

In addition, it’s not like Muhammad, who was at one time expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in 2013, has dominated at the NCAA level. If he was head and shoulders above the competition, if he was averaging 30 per game, if he was carrying UCLA to over-achievement, then perhaps his being a year older than previously thought wouldn’t really matter. But none of those statements are true. Muhammad has been good this season (17.8, 5.3, 44.7% shooting), but not great and far from dominant, especially when you consider that names like Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas and Harrison Barnes, among others, have had an impact in the NBA this year while actually being younger than Shabazz.

Given the situation, you could make the argument that Muhammad wouldn’t even be a top-10 pick in a deeper draft class irrespective of the age debate. Factor in his age discrepancy, and if Muhammad’s No. 6 Bruins fall flat on their faces against No. 11 Minnesota as expected, then perhaps a scenario unfolds where the one-time top prospect isn’t even a top-10 pick in a weak (2013) draft class.

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UPDATE: Muhammad had 20 points on 6-of-18 shooting as UCLA crashed out of the tournament with a big opening round loss to Minnesota

Comments (2)

  1. This argument is flawed because he has been playing with people at the same level his whole life. It would be different if a SENIOR playing as a JUNIOR in high school and was dominating JUNIORS, but he has been playing with people at the same level his whole life. It is not like he was in high school, garnished a great amount of experience, and then stayed back an extra year to dominate. The players mentioned as NBA rookies above had more experience as an amateur and professional (Jonas), so it is not fair to compare them to him already.

    Yes his bones are stronger, he could be bigger/taller than he should, but he also could have stopped growing at 18 for a bit and grow a bit more later as we have seen with Paul George. Moreover, how many times have we seen freshman or NBA rookies be stronger than upperclassmen and veterans, so that argument is weak.

    When he gets the NBA, this will not really be a matter since the competition will be of many different levels. If you have seen him play in college, you know he would have been NBA bound regardless. If he did play with others “his age”: with MKG, Waiters, Lillard, or Austin Rivers, he would have competed as well or if not better than some (definitely Rivers). I believe if he got to play against them and other college competitors earlier, it would have only been beneficial because he would have been able to learn more. That is, you learn more against better competition than people he was “illegally dominating”.

    • Are you familiar with the concept of puberty? Of course it matters how old he is versus his competition when scouts are projecting future development

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